Jack Simpson's Journal Column on Brexit Uncertainty
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand”, Abraham Lincoln’s words still ring true eerily today. I remember joining the Chamber when the word Brexit would prompt Microsoft’s spellcheck, now it is the single issue dominating, and dividing, Britain.
I watched in awe last week, as Parliament has managed to become even more divided, following the splintering of Conservative and Labour MPs, creating further political instability. But, while the political division grabs the headlines, it is the shaking of the economic foundations that worries me.
On behalf of its members, the Chamber continues to campaign against a No Deal Brexit. No Deal would mean tariffs, increased red tape and border delays, meaning business would be forced to increase cost and lose their competitive advantage.
However, the threat of a No Deal continues to be recklessly thrown about like a political toy, with no regard to the economic impact it is having on the employers which so many livelihoods depend.
The North East has grown steadily since the 2016 vote, but uncertainty is beginning to impact the economy. Towards the end of 2018, regional trade was down annually, overseas investment to the region has stalled and planned recruitment was down.
Members have told us they have begun stockpiling goods, for whatever Brexit outcome, while also reporting they have lost European clients and contracts, due to scepticism that the UK will be a viable trading partner after March 29th.
Brick by brick, the Brexit paralysis has created a highly uncertain and unstable economic environment, in which business are struggling to plan for the weeks ahead, let alone the years.
While the Brexit impact on the automotive sector has been hotly debated, these decisions reflect the countless others happening across the business community. Serious decisions are being made by, or forced upon, business, impacting people’s livelihoods, and the long-term prosperity for our region.
That is why the Chamber is calling on Government to extend the Brexit negotiations (Article. 50). While this will extend uncertainty, it would remove the foolhardy, and far more dangerous, threat of a No Deal Brexit; which members have told us is unacceptable,
An extension would also allow the Government to properly engage with the business community and other key stakeholders, to build a political and economic consensus, and deliver a deal that works for the regional and national economy.
Only then, can we rebuild the foundations of this house.